The Law School Decision

by Vault Law Editors | March 31, 2009

The decision whether or not to attend law school should not be made lightly. Of course, no graduate degree program should be entered into lightly, but law school is especially demanding (and expensive). If you choose to go to law school, make sure you have solid reasons that will survive that sudden urge after college graduation, when finding a job just seems too hard. Many students go to law school thinking "a law degree will come in handy" in careers other than law. While it is true that a law degree is relatively versatile, don't go to law school expecting to get a generalized degree. Law school is designed specifically to train future lawyers who want to actively practice law, preferably in the state where the law school is located. Few people have the financial resources to go to law school just for the experience.

Law school, at least for the first year, is a full-time occupation. Many schools require that you sign a contract stating that you will not work more than 20 hours a week in order to participate fully in classes. In all probability, you will have classes every day and little choice in your schedule. Tuition will be expensive. The luckiest students have family funding, while most make do with loans of various kinds. A qualified few will obtain scholarships, but law schools generally provide very few of these and, in any event, they are unlikely to cover the entire cost of tuition.

Once you are a lawyer, it will be hard for people to see you as anything else. You might think a law degree serves as a springboard to other careers, but in reality, most employers will see you simply as a lawyer. For those happy in their chosen profession or pleased with the prestige their title commands, that's not a problem. If, however, after obtaining your degree you decide to venture into fields unrelated to law, politics or finance, prepare yourself for a rough transition period. Not only will you have to repay your student loans on a salary likely to be much less than what your former classmates are making, but you'll also meet potential employers who consider you simultaneously overqualified and inexperienced. Although litigation teaches valuable general skills, litigators are not necessarily transitioned easily into other jobs.

So before making the decision to attend law school, think carefully about what it is you want from your education and whether law school will actually give it to you.

Filed Under: Law


The JD/MBA for the Corporate Lawyer: A Mixed Blessing? Law School Competition

Vault welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our User Guidelines.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Companies

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.